TalentFocus Blog

  • Critical Thinking Skills and the Workplace: Is Corporate Culture a Barrier?

    by Wyn Davies, Global Product Manager, Pearson TalentLens

    While numerous research studies show that the ability to think critically is a vital skill required in many job roles across all industries, a recent article in Human Resources Online outlines some examples of critical thinking being stifled or prevented due to organizational culture and climate.

    What is critical thinking?

    There are a number of definitions of what constitutes critical thinking but there is a general consensus that the key elements are:

    • Logical reasoning and evaluation of arguments to solve problems and draw logical conclusions

    • The ability to question and recognize facts from assumptions and hunches

    • Creative thinking

    Pearson TalentLens defines critical thinking as the ability to look at a situation and clearly understand it from multiple perspectives whilst separating facts from opinions and assumptions.

    The Human Resources Online article identifies proficiency in critical thinking, complex problem solving, innovation, collaborating, and effective communication, as entry-level job requirements. These findings are reinforced in a 2016 World Economic Forum report, The Future of Jobs, that looks at employment, skills, and workforce strategy for the future.

    Despite the wide-spread recognition of the importance critical thinking and decision making play in the workplace, there are many examples of those skills being stifled. Questioning the policies or procedures set forth by those in upper management is frowned upon, which goes against the core principles of critical thinking, which has questioning at its heart.

    In some organizations, anyone questioning or challenging the assumptions of management or offering something that goes against the status quo is seen as “not on board” or a “trouble maker”. There are also numerous examples of organizations that have suffered as a result of decisions that were made without the benefit of critical thinking.

    Have you ever heard any of these comments?

    • “If you’re not on board then get off the bus.”
    • “Anyone who disagrees with ‘X’ does not last long here.”
    • “We tried that before and it did not work.”
    • “I always agree with what my boss says.”

    All of these indicate a work culture where critical thinking is stifled.

    What can be done to overcome this?

    Before any change can take place, there needs to be realization — usually from upper management — that critical thinking is vital, yet not being encouraged. Once this happens there are a number of practical interventions that support the shift to thinking more critically:

    1. Assess or measure the current levels of critical thinking in the workplace.

    Pearson TalentLens publishes the globally renowned Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal.

    The online test is linked to a profile, interview, and development report, which can be a useful tool in management development and coaching interventions. The test measures an individual’s levels of ability in three key areas:

    • Recognition of assumptions
    • Evaluation of arguments
    • Ability to draw logical conclusions

    Ready to test your own critical thinking ability? Email talentlens@pearson.com, mention this blog, and ask to take the Watson Glaser test.

    2. Pearson also offers a number of highly interactive and practical training interventions aimed at developing the skills and behaviors involved in critical thinking. Interventions include the popular Critical Thinking Bootcamp and Critical Thinking University.  

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  • The Importance Of Both IQ & Critical Thinking In Staff

    by Wyn Davies, Global Product Manager, Pearson TalentLens

    A recent article in Business Insider supports what numerous research studies demonstrate and what IOs (Chartered Psychologists) and increasing numbers of business leaders believe: Cognitive ability is the best single predictor of performance in a job. The article goes on to say that this predictiveness increases further when combined with measures of social skills, drive, and personality traits. So what exactly is cognitive ability and why don’t all recruiters measure it?

    Cognitive Ability

    Psychology today defines IQ as a construct that encompasses problem-solving abilities, spatial manipulation, and language. Many professionals use the term IQ and Cognitive Ability interchangeably. There is overall general cognitive ability (referred to as g by psychologists) as well as distinct specific abilities (s) as shown below.


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  • Harnessing the Power of Numerical Reasoning to Build the 21st Century Workforce

    by Wyn Davies, Global Product Manager, Pearson TalentLens

    In this blog post, Wyn Davies – Global Product Manager, Mary-Ann Hanson – Sr. Research Director and Kama Dodge – Sr. Research Associate at Pearson TalentLens look at the differences between various forms of “numerical reasoning” tests and how these differ to the sort of math tests taken in school.

    In a rapidly changing world, replete with an explosion of technology and an emphasis on data-driven organizations, the ability to interpret numerical data and reason with numbers is highly important at many levels in numerous roles across a variety of organizations in both the public and private sectors.

    What is Numerical Reasoning?

    When you think of math, numerical calculation is likely the first thing that comes to mind. Calculation is the act of adding, dividing, multiplying, or subtracting numbers of various magnitudes and in various formats (e.g., integers, decimals and fractions). This is, in fact, what many numerical assessments measure – the rote application of formulas and rules to make calculations, sometimes referred to as number facility.

    Numerical reasoning, on the other hand, goes beyond calculation and involves higher-order mathematic skills. It focuses on determining how to approach and solve problems that have numerical content. It includes the ability to evaluate the situation, select problem-solving strategies, draw logical conclusions, develop and describe solutions, and recognize how those solutions can be applied.

    What is the relationship between tests assessing Number Facility and Numerical Reasoning Ability?

    Academic grades in mathematics tests demonstrate an ability to learn and apply mathematical formulae and techniques, but they do not necessarily measure the ability to manipulate and reason with numerical data. However, because it is almost impossible to measure numerical reasoning without tapping into basic math content, a knowledge of number facility is required.

    A study was carried out into the relationship between test scores when a group of individuals completed two Pearson tests: one focusing on arithmetic computation and the other focusing more on numerical reasoning. The correlation-coefficient of DAT Numerical Ability (a test that focuses on arithmetic computation and number facility) vs. NDIT (a test measuring numerical data interpretation and reasoning), recorded a moderately high correlation score of r = .55.

    Why is Numerical Reasoning Important?

    Numerical reasoning ability is important for success in a variety of jobs. For example in more than 30% of the over-900 occupations in the O*NET national job description database in the USA, numerical reasoning ability is rated as important or higher. For 22 of these occupations, numerical reasoning was rated very or extremely important (www.onetonline.org). Employers seek candidates who can apply the math they have learned constructively and critically, rather than simply by rote. Most importantly in-depth research shows that cognitive ability and reasoning tests are the best predictors of actual job performance – higher than school and college test grades.

    Introducing NDITTM Numerical Data Interpretation Test

    In order to help organizations ensure that their employees have the numerical reasoning skills needed for success in crucial roles, Pearson TalentLens has developed the Numerical Data Interpretation Test (NDIT). NDIT focuses on the interpretation and manipulation of the types of numerical data routinely encountered in the workplace. NDIT is based on sophisticated approaches to test development, administration, and scoring.

    NDIT is a timed item-banked test containing content of high relevance to real numerical problems encountered at work, which improves applicants’ testing experience and fairness impressions. The questions vary in difficulty and format, including multiple-choice and open-ended items.

    How Does NDIT Differ From Other Numerical Tests?

    In addition to NDIT Pearson TalentLens also publishes other numerical ability or reasoning tests that include:
    DAT Numerical Ability assessment measures number facility.
    DAT Numerical Sequences (published 2018) requires the test taker to find the missing number in a sequence. The numerical sequences presented follow a logical rule based on elementary arithmetic. An initial sequence is presented from which the rule must be inferred. Numerical Sequence tests are similar to matrices tests of which Raven’s is the most well-known. This test may be suitable to measure aspects of numerical reasoning for individuals with only a limited knowledge of math or who have low verbal ability.

    ANRA measures sufficiency of information and estimation of quantities. ANRA is like a test of numerical critical thinking and it has a high correlation co-efficient (r = .44) with the Watson-Glaser (a test of verbal critical thinking ability).

    What Evidence is Available to Support the use of NDIT?

    A white paper written by two of our Research IOs that explains more about NDIT and its correlation with other test scores will be published soon.

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  • Raven’s APM and Watson-Glaser: Comparing Two of the Best Cognitive Assessments

    When you think of assessing cognitive ability, two names come to mind in the crowded pre-employment marketplace: Raven’s™ Progressive Matrices and Watson-Glaser™ Critical Thinking Appraisal. Both are feature-packed assessments with versatile administration and reporting capabilities and can be administered in US, UK, Australian, and Indian English, Spanish, French, and Dutch. Let’s learn more about when to use each one!

    Getting to know Raven’s and Watson

    Raven’s™ Advanced Progressive Matrices (APM) is among the best nonverbal assessment tools available which makes it a great choice for multilingual workforces. It is designed to measure an individual’s ability to perceive and think clearly, make meaning out of confusion, and formulate new concepts when faced with novel information. People that score well on Raven’s are often described as being good “problem solvers” and “quick learners.” The nonverbal aspect of the APM minimizes the impact of language skills on performance on the assessment, which makes it ideally suitable for use across languages. For this, the APM offers the ideal combination of predictive power and cultural flexibility.

    The Watson-Glaser™ Critical Thinking Appraisal is the leader in assessing critical thinking ability and predicting performance in fast-paced positions requiring high-level thinking and analysis. It measures a combination of critical thinking attitudes, knowledge, and skills. More specifically, it tests an individual’s: 1) the ability to recognize the existence of problems and an acceptance of the general need for evidence in support of what is asserted to be true; 2) knowledge of the nature of valid inferences, abstractions, and generalizations in which the weight or accuracy of different kinds of evidence are logically determined; and 3) skills in employing and applying the above attitudes and knowledge. Watson-Glaser is an extremely popular assessment used worldwide to assess decision-making skills and managerial readiness.

    How would you compare these assessments?

    Raven’s APM and Watson-Glaser can be compared in terms of the types of reasoning they assess. The APM measures inductive reasoning, in which the premises of an argument are believed to support the conclusion but do not entail it (i.e., they do not ensure its truth). Induction is a form of reasoning that makes generalizations based on individual instances. More simply, inductive thinking is when you arrive at a conclusion on the basis of some evidence (e.g., All the squirrels I’ve seen have furry tails. Therefore, all squirrels have furry tails). Comparatively, the Watson-Glaser measures deductive reasoning, where arguments move from given statements (premises) to conclusions which must be true if the premises are true (e.g., All apples are fruit. All fruit grows on trees. Therefore, all apples grow on trees.). In this form of reasoning, the premises of the argument ensure its truth or falsity

    When should you use each assessment?

    Both assessments measure types of cognitive abilities, so either can be used with a high degree of confidence for predicting a candidate’s job performance. The Raven’s APM may be more useful in contexts where a measure of cognitive ability is needed but language and/or cultural differences may be an issue. Raven’s items consist of graphics arranged in a matrix, whereas the Watson-Glaser’s items include more detailed written passages that require one to delineate subtle nuances to arrive at the correct answer. Thus, the Raven’s APM is often used for complex jobs such as IT professionals and engineers that require a high level of reasoning ability but not necessarily a high level of verbal fluency and comprehension. In contrast, the Watson-Glaser is often used for jobs such as lawyers, teachers, salespeople, nurses, and managers in any field, where reasoning is important and a high level of verbal fluency and comprehension is necessary for successful performance.

    In addition, since the Watson-Glaser evaluates critical-thinking skills that can be improved with training, it is likely to be useful for evaluating the baseline of an employee’s level of critical thinking before they enter a professional development course or workshop.

    The verdict

    Both assessments are among the industry’s most proven pre-employment tools and are increasingly used for employee development (with a full suite of critical thinking training programs offered based on Watson-Glaser). Use Raven’s APM when you want a great measure of cognitive ability across cultures when you don’t want language skills to influence scores. Use Watson-Glaser when the job requires a high level of verbal fluency and decision-making responsibilities. These assessments are among the best at helping you identify and develop talented individuals ready to succeed in the 21st century and advance in your organization.

    Contributors: John Trent and Chad Fife

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  • World’s Toughest Tests and Final Exams

    In addition to the fact that life itself is a test, there are a number of other scholastic and professional challenges along the way that would defeat even the best of us. That said, below is a list of the hardest final exams you could ever face and, if you're lucky, you'll never have to take them. (Not in any particular order!)

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  • Relationship Between Feeling Personality and Critical Thinking

    Personality type fans will probably not like this post, but statistics aren’t swayed by popularity.

    As someone who has been a fan of personality type for years and is a certified practitioner for both the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and Golden Personality Type Profiler, I am well-acquainted with the general message about personality type. As you should learn in any personality type debrief, no personality type is good or bad. In addition, no personality type is better than another.

    However, based on studies conducted for the Watson-Glaser assessment, there is a very important difference between the critical thinking results for someone with a Thinking preference versus a Feeling preference.

    As you can see in the Technical Manual for the Watson-Glaser, the study shows that individuals who report a Feeling preference on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator showed a statistically significant negative correlation with the key critical thinking ability Evaluating Arguments (r= -.27).

    In addition, individuals who reported a Feeling preference on the Golden Personality Type Profiler showed a statistically significant negative correlation Drawing Conclusions (r= -.21) while the Thinking preference showed a statistically significant positive relationship with Drawing Conclusions (r= .26).

    In other words, all personality types are not created equal when it comes to critical thinking ability.

    So, what should you do to improve the critical thinking skills of your employees (both Thinking and Feeling types). Some people believe “practice makes perfect,” but I believe what Vince Lombardi once said, “Only perfect practice makes perfect.”

    Without expert coaching, and consistent training and follow-up, one cannot improve their critical thinking skills. For more information on improving your critical thinking skills, click here.

    Breanne Harris is the Solutions Architect for Pearson TalentLens. She works with customers to design selection and development plans that incorporate critical thinking assessments and training. She has a Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology and has experience in recruiting, training, and HR consulting. 

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